Launcher Relocates Ukrainian Staff

Launcher has relocated most of its Ukrainian-based staff to Sofia, Bulgaria, the Hawthorne, CA-based company just announced

“I’m distraught by the unprovoked Russian aggression in Ukraine,” Launcher CEO Max Haot wrote in a note. “We are providing all of the necessary support we can think of to our team, partners, and their families and communities in Ukraine.”

Background: Launcher has a satellite office in Dnipro, Ukraine, staffed by 11 engineers and five support team members. Igor Nikishchenko, Launcher’s chief engineer, is Ukrainian. He’s been US-based since 2018.

  • With the US State Dept’s permission, the Nikishchenko-led Dnipro team has been contributing to the development of Launcher’s E-2 liquid rocket engine. 
  • Launcher licensed Soviet heritage designs for the RD-8 engine from Yuzhnoye, a Ukrainian state entity. The company “no longer has dependencies on deliverables from Yuzhnoye,” Haot wrote. 
  • The rocket developer is US-owned and has no investment ties to Ukraine (or Russia), Haot told Payload.

Launcher has 65+ employees globally, with 50 at its LA HQ.

The latest: Launcher began putting a contingency plan into place a couple weeks ago, Haot told Payload, and most staff were located by mid-February to the company’s new European office in Sofia. Launcher invited its Ukraine-based staff and their families to relocate (and covered costs). Ten engineers took Launcher up on its offer. “We continue to encourage and support five of the support staff and one engineer who decided to remain in Ukraine,” said Haot.

A final note: Haot said that since its founding days in 2017, Launcher set out to differentiate itself by leveraging Ukrainian talent. The wider US rocket and propulsion sectors stand to benefit from importing the best and brightest Ukrainian designers and engineers, Haot noted.

Note: This story was updated after Launcher reached out to share additional information.

+ To the Payload community: We know Ukraine has a robust space sector. If your company has operations or staff located in the country, get in touch. We’re not going to publish any information unless you’d like us to. Rather, we’d like to track ongoing developments and, if possible, help by connecting you to the right US companies or government officials. 

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